The Salt of Life, directed by Gianni Di Gregorio
What happens when an aging Italian filmmaker realizes that women no longer look at him with desire? He makes a film about the experience, of course.
Gianni e Le Donne, or The Salt of Life, is a semi-autobiographical film that follows the film’s hero, played by the filmmaker himself, in his hapless (yet always polite) attempts at romance and flirtation. Charming, poignant, slightly melancholy, and funny in a poker-faced way, the movie is also a feast for the eyes with its lovely scenes of Rome.
Audre Lorde in a film still from director Dagmar Schultz’s “The Berlin Years: 1984-1992.”
Sister Outsider was published in June of 1984, and more than thirty years on, Audre Lorde’s essays and speeches around racism, sexism, homophobia, and on many other themes—women’s relationships, anger vs hatred, communication, responsibility, love—remain as powerful and empowering as ever.
From The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect…
And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger…
In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear- fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.
…For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition…
The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
Lorde died of cancer in 1992. Re-reading her work this June, I wonder what she might write about today…reflecting and calling as strongly as ever for individuals and communities to grow, break silence, recognize, and hear one another?
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
“We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So, when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth?”
I don’t know the last time I read something that I loved as much as Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This happens to be her debut novel, which blows me away. If you love family sagas that make the family trees in the opening pages necessary to refer to, this is the book for you.
Gyasi, who was born in Ghana and immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 2, said she was initially inspired to write this book after she visited the Cape Coast Castle. In Homegoing she introduces us to Effia and Esi, half-sisters born in 18th-century West Africa. While Effia becomes the bride of a British slave-trader and goes to live in the Cape Coast Castle, Esi become a slave living in the dungeons of the castle awaiting the trip to the New World. Homegoing then follows generations of their descendants, free and enslaved, on both sides of the ocean. Each chapter follows the story of a different character, moving forward in time from one generation to the next. From these stories of Effia and Esi’s descendants grow “two branches split from the same tree.”
Extraordinary for its beautiful language, Homegoing is a portrait of what it means to belong, both to a nation and to a family, and the forces that shape those nations and families. Gyasi packs so much into each of the short chapters and she accomplishes it all with the astounding efficiency of just 300 pages. Trust me, you won’t be able to put this book down.
“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
Thomas Murphy, by Roger Rosenblatt
When I read Roger Rosenblatt’s work of fiction Thomas Murphy, pre-Orlando but post- so many other, earlier mankind-vs-itself horrors, this quote grabbed me. It is posted desk-side where I can read it anytime my eyes wander from workaday whatevers:
“That’s all civil rights means anyway—returning to a state of natural dignity. The movements are called revolutionary, but they are really restorative.”
The italics are mine because important things assume italic formation in my head, but the bold-ness of the statement (if not of the typeface) comes from the main character, Thomas Murphy himself.
Thomas is a character, all right: a poet whose memory is likely failing (he awaits clinical proof), possessor of a meandering mode of expression (oh! how I love a fellow meanderer!), blessed and cursed with a cast of acquaintances, living and dead, that makes for an extraordinary ordinary life. For a fictional fella, he makes more sense than he ought.
Perhaps it is only in fiction that a statement of the obvious, like his regarding civil rights, can hope to stand without assault. Perhaps it is up to real folk like us to take his assertion into the world and see the sense it makes.
Fiction is a vehicle for truth. Nonfiction can mislead. Tragedies are tragic. Love is love. We are what we are. We all yearn for the restoration of our natural dignity.
The Replacements’ golden age: Let It Be (1984), Tim (1985), Pleased to Meet Me (1987) [Recommended if you: are 15-25, have ever been 15-25, are already mourning the fact that we are on the wrong side of the summer solstice]
Imagine that Peter Pan wakes up in Neverland one day feeling uncertain about his signature stance on adulthood, and the only way he can process this identity crisis is to make three jangly punk records. I go through regular phases where the only albums I want to listen to are these, preferably while driving, windows down. Bonus points for sunglasses that make me feel tough, but like, in a sensitive way. These smart and bittersweet power pop classics are available to stream with your library card via Hoopla along with the rest of the Replacements’ catalogue. (If you prefer CDs, Let It Be and Pleased to Meet Me can be found in PPL’s collection, but you’ll have to go through ILL to get your hands on Tim, my personal favorite).
As always, thanks for reading.
Portland Public Library is the library serving the city of Portland, Maine. The library system serving the city on the West Coast—Portland, Oregon—is called Multnomah County Library. Yet a quick Internet search for “Portland Library” positions our library in Maine at the top of the search results —so naturally, each and every month, we get some calls or texts that baffle staff and patrons alike until geographical distinctions are sorted out. But the puzzlement usually brings a smile. Our library colleagues love swapping stories about all the confusion between PWM (Maine) and PDX (Oregon).
Here’s a collection of our favorite tales of two cities.
A message arrived recently in our Ask-A-Librarian chat box: “What are the retirement communities in Portland like? Can you send me some information about retiring in Portland?” We sent back a variety of information, including links to retirement homes and a Wall Street Journal article about the benefits of fresh sea air. The patron wrote back that they had been looking for information about Oregon, but were now considering retirement in Maine!
The Public Computing area at PPL includes 3D printing services. Patrons email us their files and we correspond with a few questions and notify them when their 3D printed item is ready to be picked up. A patron called, excitedly asking for directions to the Main Branch so he could pick up his 3D print job. The staff person on the phone gave instructions for Congress Street and Elm Street, and the patron kept asking where these streets were in relation to 10th Avenue. There is no 10th Avenue in Portland, Maine, and he sheepishly admitted he was from Oregon. The patron offered to pay shipping for his 3D print job, or asked if we could donate it to someone locally—which we did, when someone serendipitously emailed the same file to be printed later that week!
Administration gets calls so frequently for Oregon-centric directions and parking that they’re able to give directions to the Multnomah County Central Library.
A Reference Librarian was similarly fielding a directions call. The patron on the line asked where the library was in relation to Boise, Idaho, where he was driving to the library from. The librarian earnestly answered: “East!” This earned a chuckle from both ends of the call.
Both Portland Public Library and the Multnomah County Library offer hoopla (a streaming video and music service à la Netflix), but selecting “Portland Public Library” and trying to log in with your Oregon library card is liable to frustrate. One of our staff fielded a call recently from someone struggling to get their library card to work with hoopla. Asking for a library card number clears up many mysteries for us, and it was soon clear the caller was not in Maine. But after learning he’d reached the wrong library in the wrong state, the caller was completely unfazed and asked for help with downloading his title anyway. Our staff member walked him through finding and selecting “Multnomah County Library” on the menu for hoopla access. We love our Oregon patrons, too!
A Reference Librarian spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with a person looking for a title that was available at PPL’s Burbank branch. Since the patron didn’t know where Burbank was, he asked if the book could be sent to Hillsdale instead. “Where are you calling from, sir?” concluded that call.
PPL receives advance copies of books from publishers that they think we might be interested in purchasing eventually. Our selector shelves frequently contain beautiful books about the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver travel, and Oregon history. The ME in PPL’s address must not have been a tip-off when these gracious publishers addressed their packages. We’ve been wondering if Multnomah County Librarians get advance copies of books on lighthouses in New England.
The Chat with a Librarian service at PPL gets so many questions asking for the city on the West Coast, we have a saved response:
While it is clear to us here in Maine that our Portland should be the first one that comes to mind—Portland, ME was founded in 1786 after all, more than fifty years before Portland, OR—Portland East Coast is still more than eight times smaller than Portland West Coast. That’s a population of 66,194 versus a population of…583,776. (Thus: so many more people with questions needing answers!) Why aren’t callers tipped off by the 207 area code when they’re dialing the number for the “Portland library”? Maine only has one area code, so all calls are local calls in Maine. Oregon, though, has four area codes, so 207 might just get lost in the shuffle.
Besides our names, Portland and Portland have a lot in common. Portland seems to be the coffee capital on the East Coast and on the West Coast; one travel site calls PWM the beer capital of the world, while CNN gives this distinction to PDX. PWM has a growing housing problem: PDX too. We also care about being sustainable cities—Portland, ME has a sustainability initiative, as does Portland, OR. Most importantly? Both Portland libraries have a history of awesome Bookmobiles (see below).
We love to think that the work we do in Maine affects people all the way across the country. Since we’re three hours ahead, it’s nice to imagine that while our West Coast colleagues are busy waking up and getting their library open, we’re picking up some of their urgent calls—and likewise, maybe after PPL closes for the evening, the other Portland is helping keep our night owls stocked with eBooks.
In the meanwhile, if anyone needs directions to the library in Portland, England, or Portland, Australia—we’re ready!
Portland Public Library staff joined scores of community partners this morning, led by United Way of Greater Portland, to celebrate the wonderful launch event for Thrive 2027, a statement of 10-year community goals for Greater Portland.
The vision for this effort, based on input from over 2,000 individuals and organizations, is to “see Greater Portland as an inclusive, caring, and collaborative community that focuses its resources strategically so that everyone grows and prospers through enhanced educational opportunities, financial stability, and healthy living.”
The three stated goals in Thrive 2027 express commitments to provide quality educational experiences for all children; and to bolster financial stability and optimal health through education, resources, and opportunities.
As your public library, we are deeply committed to provide our expertise and materials, community conversations, and special programming experiences so that everyone can discover new opportunities, learn and become informed to pursue these opportunities, and get support to navigate the systems…and THRIVE.